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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2013;103:397-425. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385979-2.00014-9.

Thyroid hormones and postembryonic development in amniotes.

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Molecular Zoology Team, Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, UMR5242 CNRS, Université Lyon, Lyon, France.


In chordates, metamorphosis is a developmental event well described in amphibians in which thyroid hormone triggers this event. Interestingly, among amphibians, several variations upon the eggs/tadpole/frog developmental sequence are observed such as direct development or neoteny. The fact that TH-regulated metamorphosis is conserved in invertebrate chordates such as amphioxus implies that this event is an ancient feature of all vertebrates. This allows us to propose that TH may play an important role in coordinating the postembryonic development of apparently nonmetamorphosing vertebrates such as mammals or sauropsids. Indeed, the observations of thyroid hormone levels in mammals and sauropsids draw interesting parallels with what is observed during amphibian metamorphosis. At the physiological level, the increase of thyroid hormone signaling is required for the normal development particularly for the intestine and the brain. At the behavioral level, a peak of TH often precedes the autonomy of the young from parental care. At the ecological level, offspring with a TH peak close to birth/hatching tends to be precocial young whereas offspring with a TH peak long after birth/hatching tends to be altricial young. Taken together, these observations in amniotes, which are not considered as undergoing metamorphosis during their development, are consistent with the idea of a late developmental step controlled by TH and allowing the accession to the adult ecological niche. Thus, according to this view, at the molecular level all vertebrates undergo a period of remodeling controlled by TH that is reminiscent of metamorphosis.

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